Espresso Adventures: Grinding Methods

Posted by on Feb 21, 2013 in Blog | No Comments
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Beans from Thor Espresso

When purchasing a grinder for your espresso needs, many people usually agree that it is important to spend a solid amount of your budget towards the grinder. As i have stubbornly gone through three different ways of grinding my beans, i wholeheartedly agree with this logic. You are only as strong as your weakest link, the best espresso machine + solid shot pulling routine cannot save your horribly ground beans…

Below is a comment from Psyd that I feel encapsulates the question of; should i spend money on a good grinder or machine first?

The difference between a $500 espresso machine and a $1500 espresso machine is in ease of use. They’ll put out the same product, you’ll just have to work a bit harder with the five hundred-dollar machine…The difference between a $50 grinder and a $150 grinder is worlds apart as far as the results go.

I ended up learning this the hard way, went through preground beans, a hand grinder and now an owner of a burr grinder. As I have experienced each of these steps, I thought it would be nice to give a short summary of each grind method scenario.

Preground beans

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When we first got our Rancilio Silvia, we totally skimped on the grinder and purchased preground beans from The Green Beanery. Our initial thoughts were that that they had a big enough preground bean selection for us to be happy for a while. We were blinded by the shiny-ness of the Rancilio, which made us give a blind eye to the grinder o.o As time went by, we quickly had a small list of flaws that come together with preground beans.

  • As a rule of thumb, espresso should be used ASAP after being ground up, our preground beans would easily stay with us for a couple of weeks.
  • Hard to calibrate, when pulling an espresso shot, having the ability to slighty tweak to how fine/coarse the grinds is vital.
  • Lack of crema + shot consistency (we kept on trying different blends which made each time unpredictable)

If you are using preground beans, i recommend you upgrade ASAP when your budget allows for it!

Hario Hand Grinder

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We eventually decided to move away from preground beans due to the bad results we got with it. Our budget that we set aside to a grinder was still quite low so what we ended up purchasing was this hand grinder from Hario. We were quite happy with our hand grinder, the amount of value it gave us was tremendous for its low-cost. I actually like our Hario hand grinder, it was a bit of a hassle but the ability to move away from preground beans made that hassle worth it.

  • We could now grind beans and use them within minutes. This allows for the retention of the oils in the bean. 
  • The grinds could be adjusted to be more fine/coarse.
  • The grinding process builds muscles!
  • Relatively cheap, you can get a decent one for ~$40
  • Used currently as a super efficient spice grinder!
  • The nut that adjusted the grind settings had large increments. So it was either a setting of 5 notches or 6 notches, it did not allow for 4.5 notches.
  • The Hario hand grinder does not have any indicator when it came to adjusting grinds so everything was somewhat of a guessing game until you made your own system.
  • Takes ~3min to grind a double espresso shot, tedious for multiple drinks.

If you do not mind the manual labour + only make the odd espresso here and there, i highly recommend a hand grinder.

Rancilio Rocky Grinder

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As a joint christmas and birthday present, my sister and her boyfriend bought me a Rancilio Rocky doserless grinder. Prior to the purchase, I think we collectively came to a conclusion that we wanted something that was faster + finer grind settings. What we ended up with was first the Rancilio Rocky WITH the doser, which I then convinced them to swap it out for the doserless model. With the pie shaped doser, there would be a lot of waste + it would be hard to change the amount of grinds being dosed.

  • Quick to grind back to back espresso shots.
  • Highly consistent grinds.
  • Finer grind settings (even though it’s not fully stepless, it has smaller increments in its grind adjustments). Eventually I also want to make the Rocky stepless.
  • ~$300 cost of the machine
  • Big in both size and weight
  • The Rancilio Rocky in specific clumps up the grinds so i have to use the WDT technique.

If you have a passion for espresso (and coffee in general) and see yourself into this hobby for a long time, then I HIGHLY recommend investing in a good grinder. Machines change from time to time but a great grinder lasts forever :D

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